Responding to climate change in the mountains: Opportunities for parliamentarians to act – Issue Brief

Multiple Authors

Introduction

Mountains are vital ecosystems for people and the planet. They provide freshwater for half of the world’s population and host rich biodiversity and cultural importance for communities around the world. Unfortunately, they are also facing some of the clearest indications of climate change – rapid temperature warming and melting glaciers, more frequent and intense natural hazards, and changing precipitation patterns that can have severe impacts on ecosystems and human wellbeing.

Mountains are also particularly vulnerable to these impacts, with rugged conditions and a lack of adequate infrastructure to adapt to worsening conditions. These factors threaten livelihoods and may be a source of conflict and displacement in the future, creating further challenges to be dealt with. Moreover, the consequences of climate change in the mountains do not remain in the mountains, but spread throughout the lowlands and reverberate across countries and regions around the globe. As climate warming continues, these consequences are intensifying.

The purpose of this issue brief is to help parliamentarians respond effectively to these conditions by providing them with an understanding of how climate effects in the mountains create downstream repercussions, and by identifying policies and actions they can take across the range of potential impacts. Parliamentarians are responsible for representing the mountains in their countries, and their decisions often have long-term impacts on mountainous environments and the people who live there.

This article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.

Key Messages

  • With their legislative, budgetary, oversight and representation functions, parliamentarians have key roles to play in accelerating climate action in mountain areas. 
  • As climate change disrupts the water cycle in the mountains, both the uplands and the lowlands are experiencing more frequent and severe flooding and periods of water shortages.  Cooperation on water use may be essential to the well-being of water users both upstream and down.
  • Preserving mountain biodiversity sustains mountain tourism opportunities, protects cultural heritages and conserves crop wild relatives and other plant resources that may loom large in the development of medicines.
  • Rising temperatures and disrupted precipitation patterns are changing the growing conditions in the mountains. Adaptation strategies aimed at improving food security in the mountains need to take into account the current and projected changes in the availability of water, higher temperatures, an increase in pests, and a reduction in pollinators.
  • A shortage of economic opportunities leaves mountain people in poverty and without adequate livelihood options, which worsens from climate change. The out-migration of people from mountain areas can create pressure within host communities in lowland areas in terms of livelihoods, natural resources, healthcare and social services.
  • Women and Indigenous peoples are among the groups most vulnerable to climate change. These groups are also important actors of change for adaptation, bringing in new perspectives and knowledge that help resilience planning. 
  • Parliamentarians have opportunities to introduce solutions to these key issues that have impacts both upstream and downstream.

Explore the opportunities for parliamentarians, as well as actions parliamentarians can take, in more detail on pages 5-10 of the original brief. 

Further resources

  • Suggested Citation:Mackey, A. and Hughes, G. (2023). Responding to climate change in the mountains: Opportunities for parliamentarians to act. Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Adaptation at Altitude Programme.